Canada: Competition Bureau
The Competition Bureau has, through consultation with staff, developed three priorities that will guide our work in the coming year and beyond:
- focused enforcement supported by strategic regulatory interventions;
- applying the law in a transparent and predictable manner; and
- building trust through enhanced collaboration, domestically and abroad.
With respect to our first priority, we believe that a mix of targeted enforcement and advocacy activity is the formula through which we will deliver the maximum benefit to the Canadian public.
Enforcement of Canada’s competition laws is the lifeblood of our work, which is why the Bureau has pursued and will continue to pursue responsible cases that raise issues under the Competition Act. For example, over the past few years, the Bureau has pursued cases involving chocolate, credit cards, gasoline, motor vehicle components, passenger airline services, residential real estate brokerage services and specialty television services. Keeping with the ‘focused enforcement’ component of our first priority, we have increasingly turned our attention to responsibility for individuals involved in criminal cartel behaviour. We believe firmly that individuals must be held accountable for their involvement in criminal cartels and we have pursued investigations against individuals both in the gasoline industry and in our most recent case in the chocolate industry. We expect to continue this approach in the coming year.
Without retreating from our role as an agile and principled enforcement agency, it is our belief that, in some circumstances, the introduction of competitive forces within a market will have just as much, if not more, impact on the economy as enforcement action. As a result, we have also started to incrementally increase our level of strategic regulatory intervention and will continue do so throughout the coming year. The Bureau recently provided a submission on the development of a mandatory code of conduct for all providers of retail mobile wireless voice and data services to Canada’s telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). On 3 June 2013, the CRTC released its code of conduct; we were pleased that our recommendations were taken into consideration and in some cases included. We will continue to identify other opportunities to intervene on questions of competition in other sectors, and will actively seek feedback from our stakeholders on how best to approach these interventions going forward.
Our second priority is to apply Canada’s competition laws in a transparent and predictable manner. To that end, in the coming year we will be moving forward on our recently unveiled Action Plan on Transparency, designed to promote the development of a more efficient and responsive agency, while providing Canadians more opportunities to learn about our work through more frequent and proactive disclosure about Bureau operations. We hope to accomplish this through such means as: continuing to actively solicit external expertise to better inform policies and practices; publishing information about the outcome of our inquiries; developing guidance on investigation and stakeholder communications; and adopting new technologies for enhancing accessibility, information-sharing and dialogue with the public.
Our third and final priority is about building trust through enhanced collaboration. This has both a domestic and international aspect. Domestically, collaboration entails working together with our partners and stakeholders, including the business and legal communities, on the development of the practices, policies and procedures that inform our work. For example, we will continue to seek opportunities for collaboration with the business community, through avenues such as our recently introduced ‘sector days’, in which companies are invited to provide the Bureau with first-hand knowledge of the nature of competition in their sectors and what forces are shaping change in their industry landscapes. This sharing of information will enable our work to be better informed and allow the Bureau to provide the business community greater insight into our priorities. We have begun meeting with companies in the digital sector and will engage with other sectors of the economy in the coming year.
In keeping with the theme of collaboration, we will also continue to meet with officials at other Canadian federal agencies, with a view to keeping lines of communication open and strengthening relationships, so that we can collaboratively address matters that concern both of our agencies, as appropriate. Maintaining this dialogue will support our future enforcement and advocacy work.
Internationally, we are seeing increasing and better cooperation through multilateral fora like the OECD, the ICN and regional networks. The Bureau also fosters this through bilateral cooperation with its international counterparts. In that vein, the Bureau has placed a focus on developing ‘pick up the phone’ relationships with our counterparts in other agencies with the goal of increasing our own expertise, the effectiveness of our enforcement activities, and the enforcement activities of our partner agencies at home and abroad. We expect to have a full calendar this year, including bilateral meetings with our international counterparts where we will work to strengthen formal and informal information sharing, discuss case cooperation and update on enforcement matters.
We look forward to working on these and other initiatives that will support us in ensuring that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.